Monday, 22 December 2014

According to "The Northern Echo," today is Britain's first
National Defrost Your Turkey Day.
I laughed out loud at this until I read on  and discovered that
69% of people who buy frozen turkeys leave them in unsafe places to defrost
including the garage!
Or presumably they do not begin to defrost them soon enough. Oh dear ...........
what a nasty thought.
I hope you are  one of the 31% who do it properly.


                                                Happy Christmas to you all anyway.
Whole Turkeys

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

We Will Remember Them.

In the last few months crowds of visitors have flocked to the Tower of London to stare at nearly 900,000 poppies that represent lives lost in the 1914-18 War;  a very visual way of showing exactly what that war cost our country and the lasting effect it had on those who survived.
However, yesterday I heard of something that was even more touching.
During that war, in the peaceful village of Wolsingham, in Weardale, Grammar school staff planted six Oak trees round their playing field to represent the six boys who had died. When the war was over they needed twelve more. Now there are 59 Oaks – some of them still saplings – as local boys give their lives to their country; even as recently as the war in Afghanistan.
There has never been great publicity; crowds have not flocked to Wolsingham  to stare. Only those solid trees offer a lasting reminder of the country-boys who went to war and did not come back.
A memorial service with a two-minute silence is held each year within the school.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

"The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson.  Illustrated by Alex Sheffer.

If you go down in the woods today ...............
make sure it's Hamsterley Forest near Bishop Auckland.

Take the children across the impressive new bridge that spans the river and follow the Gruffalo trail through the trees.

Cross the wood and metal bridge.
Enjoy the reflections in the water before you reach  . . ..

 . . . this board.
Search for animals high

Scuff your shoes through the dead leaves on the ground
and listen for the eerie call of the birds above your head.
and low.
Walk on until at last you
spot this sign:-

And opposite it, standing in a clearing,there he is - The Gruffalo,bigger than a man but friendly in his  own ugly way!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Autumn is here.
 Not only has the weather changed from sunshine to showers and the temperature dropped 
by several degrees but yesterday morning Radio 4 officially declared Autumn, Open.
They advised comfort food for freedom – Risotto made with mushrooms and served with special risotto rice which they say is lava-like and most appropriate for this time of year; deliberately misquoting Keats’ famous poem as “Mushrooms and Mellow Fruitfulness.”

John Keats
To Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

I must admit I look forward to piping-hot meals and especially to puddings and tarts made with the fruit so recently  harvested; served with gloriously thick custard.  Such a welcome change from salads, no matter how tastefully they were disguised or how they enhanced our figures. Winter walks will soon remove those extra inches and if not . . .  there’s always next summer!

Monday, 15 September 2014

"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
-   Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

I wonder how many people enjoyed last week's sunsets as much as I did.
From the back of my house I have wonderful views
of the sun going down and only a short time later
I can walk to the front and see the moon rising above the rooftops.

7.30 pm The sun sinks lower and the sky turns orange.

7.15 pm Sun Begins to Set

But on Sunday morning the swallows were swooping and diving across the sky or perching 
impatiently on telegraph wires as they prepared for their long flight to warmer climes.
And in the afternoon, Raby Castle near Staindrop welcomed a crowd of visitors on their Heritage Open Day. The 15th century walled garden, with an almost unbelievable riot of colour from its display of roses, was admired by many people while others paid a visit to the castle itself or explored the extensive parkland. A day to remember whatever their choice.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A few weeks ago I entered my story, “Body on the Track,” into the Room-to-Write Short Story Competition.

On 27th August the Long list was announced.
From about 200 entries, only 20 had reached this Longlist. Mine was one of them!
I was so proud and delighted and grateful to the judges who appreciated my work.

Many thanks to all the friends who sent messages and congratulations.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Welcome to Samson - he can never replace Gypsy but he's the latest addition to the long line of dogs this family have owned.
A lively 2 year old now;  he should enjoy at least another 10 years with the younger members of the family. Good luck, Sammy.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Cold Cotes Garden at Harrogate and Littlethorpe Manor, Ripon made a magical combination for an end-of-summer outing with a coach full of friends on Wednesday this week.
A Footpath at Cold Cotes

Cold Cotes is a small garden almost hidden between green hedges and twisting lanes – a delightful place where footpaths meander through trees and flowers blossom as high as a person’s head.  Be welcomed by the owner and hear how they’ve renovated the house and developed the garden over the last eighteen years. Drink coffee before exploring the garden; sit on wooden benches in shady corners; read poems written by Ed Loft and soak in the peaceful atmosphere before enjoying a really delicious lunch in their pristine café.

In complete contrast the second garden Littlethorpe Manor is a large estate offering 22 varied gardens and walks. Stroll under the arches hanging heavy with ripening apples; gaze at the fountain between statuesque trees; discover the pets’ graves in a small wood; walk round a lake with the clearest reflections of the building and trees beyond it and wander by the river that forms a boundary.

Already in August conkers are on the ground. A gardener explains how one of the ancient trees was almost blown down in a gale but some of it was saved and the damaged trunk is now a home for wild bees.
Continue across the grass and back to the Cut-Flower Garden; listen to the gasps of surprise and appreciation as people look at the beauty and colour of its beds. Even well known flowers are twice as high here as in other gardens and the colours defy description.  Congratulations to the head Gardener and his wife with their very knowledgeable assistant.
The Cut Flower Garden.

We came away with memories of a wonderful day and a coach full of healthy plants.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

One of the first posts I wrote on this Blog was about our family dogs - the elderly German Shepherd, Gypsy and lively young Shar Pei Winston.
Sadly Gypsy had to be put to sleep yesterday afternoon.
She had had a very happy life right to the end  and given so much pleasure to her family for 13 years - her birthday was Christmas Day so it was always celebrated.
Goodbye Gypsy.  We'll all miss you.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Favourite Devon Cafes

Inside The Colosseum Italian Restaurant in Teignmouth where the food
is -individually cooked and  excellent.

Tables with a Sea View at the Angel..

The Angel Cafe at Babbacombe.

Angels sit on Shelves
Angels fly from Ceilings.

Good Plain Cooking here.
Mouth-watering Sandwiches - Overlooking the Sea at Torquay.
On the Beach - The Crab Shack, Teignmouth serves the best Sea Food.
Caught the Same Day by Their Own Boats.
Book early to Avoid Disappointment
See the Sun Setting Outside the Windows.

Seen inside the Crab Shack

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"Dad's Army" is still one of my favourite television programmes and I laugh out loud at the antics of the Home Guard unit, nevertheless I always imagined that it was exaggerated.
So - imagine my surprise and delight to come across a display board showing these genuine World War Two instructions on what to do in the event of an invasion at Teignmouth in Devon. 

Firstly - Ring Mr Holland. Teignmouth 679 and ask him to give a message to Gunner Tanner who is his next door neighbour.
Another - Ring Commercial Inn, Bishopteignton 885 (Mr Mole)  Ask him if he would be good enough to send a message to Sgt.Satchell. 4, Clanage Street, Bishiopteignton.

We can only hope the German army were as slow as our civilians.

Oh, for a mobile phone!!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Normandy Beaches

Last Friday, 6th of June was the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings; that horrendous battle that caused the loss of so many lives but saw the turning point of World War 2. 
People from all over the world watched the celebrations as Heads of State walked solemnly across red carpets to their appointed seats, each one accompanied by French schoolchildren. Some balanced a hand on the children's shoulders; others solemnly shook hands before beginning their walk and others, including our own Prince Charles smiled and talked and obviously enjoyed their company. The Queen's outfit of lime green made a splash of colour against the sombre clothes of the veterans as she listened patiently to the stories told by these people of her own generation. 
The Queen of Denmark was in bright blue.
However a few days later human interest stories emerged that struck me as remarkable. Two men, both in their nineties and having been on the Beaches in 1944, very much wanted to be there for these celebrations.
The first was refused because of a spelling mistake. Evidently he'd been christened Fredrick (without an e in the middle) but his Carer filled in the more usual spelling of Frederick for his passport.  Surely this could have been overlooked in the circumstances.
The second man, aged 91, did have his passport but was too late to have a seat on the British Legion coach to Normandy so he absconded from his Care Home in Hove.  He simply walked out without a word to anybody and made his way to the cross-channel ferry; boarded it; made friends with other veterans and arrived in Normandy ready to enjoy every minute of the celebrations. Back at the Home, after the hue and cry died down his wife simply said, ‘He’s done worse things than that in the past.’

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Here we are on the first day of June. So May is well and truly out and as the old saying goes,
Never cast a clout till May is out.
Nobody ever seems quite sure whether May refers to the month or to the blossom in the hedges. But now they’re both out and we can safely cast our winter clouts (clothes) in favour of summer ones.
It’s been a strange month – near the beginning the weather was so mild that the trees and the flowers bloomed as they would normally do a month later and it was a delight to drive through the country lanes; a perfect English scene with the sharp greenness of the leaves; the fairy candles on the horse chestnut trees and  yellow rape seed in the fields competing with the gorse bushes that flower by the roadside; lilac and laburnum in the gardens; bluebells in the woods and poppies everywhere.
But now the greenness is beginning to fade. Rain pounded down all last week and the temperature dropped by several degrees making us all think that we’d need to wait a bit longer before we cast that clout.
However, here we are on another gloriously sunny morning. 
Can there be anything so strange as English weather?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Auckland Castle in the centre of Bishop Auckland, is fast becoming a museum rather than the home of the Bishops of Durham as it had been for centuries. Yesterday as part of their Tudor exhibition they presented a lecture on costumes worn by Henry the Eighth and the ladies of the Court.
Julia with her husband
The Grandeur of Queen Elizabeth 1st
 It turned out to be a spell-binding account of their clothes and their lives, given by Julia Soare-McCormick, a real enthusiast who had graduated in Theatre Design from both Sunderland and Nottingham universities and had also sewn every garment worn by the four manikins as well as by her husband playing the role of Henry the Eighth; who at 6’1”tall had towered above the rest of the population.
Anne Bolyn's Blue Dress with Elaborate Sleeve Details

 The clothes were all magnificent; perfect in every detail from the jewels and gold-thread that decorated the rich top garments to the cotton chemises worn against the skin.  Interwoven with all this, Julia told of their lives and executions with details surely not heard before.
Mary Queen of Scots on the Way
to her Execution
The Cloak Removed Reveals
A Scarlet Gown indicating that she died a Martyr.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

I can now recommend two more delightful cafes.  One in Craster; the other in Alnmouth, two beautiful villages on the Northumbrian coast.

Even on damp spring days these places are picturesque and entrancing.
The Fish restaurant, overlooking Craster’s tiny harbour, offers unusual and delicious meals.  With a view of the harbour outside and artists’ impressions of the sea inside, it is well worth visiting.  

Dandelion café close to the sea at Alnmouth is light and cheerful and serves tea in individual green pots complete with strainer and striped cup all on a wooden platter. Also soup and sandwiches and light meals. Another special place.

The Tiny harbour opposite the Fish Cafe.

Craster Village

Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday today
It has been a perfect spring day here in County Durham.  A day for driving through Weardale with its awe-inspiring scenery of hills and rivers; fields divided by stone walls and sturdy cottages that have withstood the extremes of winter and summer for generations.  The trees are beginning to show their foliage in a variety of greens; blackthorn bushes are a mass of white blossom; daffodils and celandines light up the verges and even dandelions add to the show while new-born lambs frolick round their tired mothers.

When people talk of the north of England it is often Yorkshire and Northumberland they’re thinking of, forgetting that Durham comes between the two.  If they do mention Durham it is probably only the city they know with its cathedral high above the other buildings or perhaps Auckland Castle, home to the Bishops of Durham in the small town of Bishop Auckland.
However, venture beyond the towns and out on the country roads and you will discover Teesdale and Weardale, each very beautiful, following the county’s main rivers. 

Today we chose Weardale, through the village of Witton-le-Wear and on to Wolsingham and Stanhope, the main “towns of the dale” then on again through the villages of Eastgate and Westgate, popular for caravanners; Daddry Shield where hills rise steeply from the road; and on to St. John’s Chapel to leave the car and walk along a narrow path by the river then to stand on a wooden footbridge and look down on the brown water spanned by substantial stepping stones and a ford that cyclists and cars were splashing through. 
As we retraced our steps we passed a very well-kept primary school and more cottages until we reached the church and the centre of the village. Opposite was a most welcome café – Chatterbox Café – run by a friendly young couple and serving delicious scones with jam as well as mouth watering meals.  I can definitely recommend the café and the whole trip. 

The sun continued to shine as we drove the 26 miles back home. Only one regret - I'd gone without my camera!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth.

The birds around me hopped and played.
Their thoughts I cannot measure:-
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. 

Earlier this week my garden birds decided that Spring had arrived.

My favourite pigeon enjoys an early morning bath  . . . .

. . 
 . . . .  before he rules the roost

or something tastier.

while this yearly visitor looks for worms

Friday, 14 March 2014

Is it possible that a giant aircraft can vanish without trace?
The obvious answer would be “Certainly not.”
And yet last Saturday, March 8th 2014 a Boeing 777 did just that as it flew between Malaysia and Vietnam with 239 passengers of various nationalities on board.
There was no distress call from either of the pilots; no debris strewn across the waters below them or even within a wide range of their flight path. When two passengers were revealed to be travelling on stolen passports it was immediately presumed to be the work of terrorists.  However it seems these were asylum seekers, not terrorists – one a boy of 19 whose mother claims he was planning to start a new life in Germany; a criminal act, yes but not on the level of terrorism, and probably it would have been undiscovered had the flight gone according to plan.

Now officials in several countries are in desperate consultation to uncover the cause of the disaster and find the remains of the plane and its passengers. While heartbroken relatives wait for answers to this unique mystery we can only hope that the crew and passengers on this powerful plane did not have time to comprehend what was happening and so were saved at least some of the distress at the end.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Locomotion Museum at Shildon is making history by bringing together for the very last time six famous steam engines from around the world.
They are The Mallard; the Sir Nigel Gresley; The Bittern;
the Union of South Africa; the Dominion of Canada and the
Dwight D Eisenhower.
75,000 enthusiasts are expected to visit and yesterday, many had already arrived .  Elaborate cameras were much in evidence and it was touching to see elderly men instructing their small grandsons in the mystery of steam engines and reminding them of how Shildon had been involved in the growth of the railways and enjoyed employment and wealth as the industry thrived.

Mallard with its Five Surviving Sister Engines.

The World's Fastest Steam Locomotive
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Bittern

Dominion of Canada
Union of South Africa

Monday, 3 February 2014

 Extreme Weather.

People who live here in County Durham, in the north-east of England, are prepared for extreme weather when winters last twice as long as those in the south. The temperatures are lower; the snow thicker and the ice on the roads  more treacherous. However, this winter we are counting our blessings. Already at the beginning of February, there have been no snowfalls and while we listen to talk of desperate flooding in the west of England we have escaped it here. This may be because of our steep hills and extensive moorland – our beautiful scenery that is not widely known or appreciated.
We can only sympathise with the people who live on the Somerset Levels where flooding has been extensive since Christmas.  According to Radio 4 the rainfall has been the most unusual for 100 years so that the land below our island is a saturated sponge and it was feared that the Severn Bore on Saturday would intensify the problems. One farmer reported that 95% of his land is under water and a lady told how her house is now surrounded by a moat and she has to clear the sludge that is full of dead earthworms!
Meanwhile in Aberystwyth mountainous waves crash over the sea front damaging the promenade and flooding the elegant houses there.
And still the rain continues. 

                      The Somerset Levels

Monday, 13 January 2014


Books have always been a favourite part of my life.
These days I enjoy being a member of a Reading Group – it used to be Wendy Robertson’s excellent Room-to-Write one; now it is the U3A group.  Today we considered the work of Rumer Godden who wrote more than 60 novels and published the last one just a few years before her death at the age of 90. She wrote for both adults and children and her descriptions of the countries in them were a delight to read. My choice was “Pippa’s Passage” about the Midlands Cities Ballet Troupe visiting Venice to begin a season of dancing in Italy. It was published in 1994.

When I was a little girl every Saturday was a boring day spent at the home of two Aunties, but a big bookcase under the stairs meant I could while away the hours by reading. The book I liked best was “The Wide, Wide World” – I’ve no idea who wrote it but years later, after the house had been broken up and the books destroyed, I looked for it at car-boot sales and second-hand shops but without success until last year I visited the Bygones museum in St Marychurch near Torquay. There in a reconstructed child’s bedroom a book was lying casually on top of a cot.  Sure enough it was “The Wide, Wide World” but it was impossible to handle it or even read the author’s name.  Nevertheless I was happy to see it.